The PFT guys take a look at the NFL’s slate of weekend playoff games. Can the Falcons take down a hot Seattle team? Will Baltimore ride their emotional high to a win in Denver?This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Are the Broncos still favored?
Washington coach Mike Shanahan met the media today but declined to answer repeated questions about his status as the coach in Washington, now and in the future.
As reporters pressed him about the fallout from the odd ESPN report claiming he had cleaned out his office last year and was planning to quit because he didn’t like the relationship between team owner Dan Snyder and quarterback Robert Griffin III, Shanahan said all he’s focusing on is Sunday’s game against the Falcons.
“I’m not going to speculate through all those different things,” Shanahan said. “If you’d like to talk about Atlanta I’ll be more than happy to talk about Atlanta.”
Shanahan did confirm that he talked to Snyder today and said their relationship is good, but he declined to go into specifics.
“I’ve talked to Dan,” Shanahan said. “Our conversation will stay between us.”
Shanahan did not directly address whether he considered quitting at the end of last season, or whether he wants to return next season.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is heading to a specialist for more tests on his injured foot on Monday, but said that an initial round of evaluations has ruled out a Lisfranc injury that would likely end his season.
“Initially you don’t know exactly what’s going on when you’re feeling it,” Peterson said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “That initial contact definitely didn’t feel good. I was kind of worried. But kind of cleared up a little bit after getting the MRI. I’ll see how things play out after the CT scan.”
Peterson said he wants to play, although coach Leslie Frazier said that the team would wait for tests before deciding on a course of action. Frazier said the team’s 3-9-1 record will factor into decisions about whether Peterson returns. Toby Gerhart’s status might be part of the discussion as well.
Gerhart is day-to-day with a strained hamstring suffered near the end of Sunday’s loss to the Ravens and he’ll likely be limited in practice if he’s able to practice this week. Matt Asiata is the only other running back currently on the roster.
One player who definitely won’t be playing this week or any other week in 2013 is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph broke his foot last month and the team’s decided to place him on injured reserve instead of continuing to hope he recovers.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning isn’t happy unless he’s unhappy. Currently, he’s unhappy about the perception that he stinks in the cold weather.
“Whoever wrote that narrative can shove it where the sun don’t shine,” Manning told KOA radio after Sunday’s win over the Titans.
But the narrative wrote itself, fueled by Peyton’s results in cold-weather games. But as we suggested on Sunday, the proper narrative may not be that Peyton struggles in cold-weather games. The accurate narrative could be that Peyton struggles in big games, and that cold-weather games are often big games.
The narrative/reality preceding Sunday’s game against the Titans (which hardly was a big game) was that Peyton has a 3-7 record when the temperate at kickoff is 32 degrees or colder. NBC Sports researcher Aaron Feldstein has tracked down the details of the 10 other games.
The first came in December 1999. The 12-2 Colts visited the 2-13 Browns. The temperature was 31 degrees at kickoff, and Peyton led a late drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal with four seconds left. He completed 27 of 43 passes for 276 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. 1-0.
The next year, the 7-3 Colts went to Lambeau Field in November. The temperature was 27 degrees at the outset of the game. Peyton completed four of 12 passes for 35 yards an one interception in the first half. A comeback effort narrowed the gap to two point, but the Packers thereafter were able to run out the clock. Green Bay won, 26-24. Manning completed 25 of 44 passes for 294 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. 1-1.
In November 2002, the 6-4 Colts visited the 7-3 Broncos. Kickoff temperature was 25 degrees. The Colts forced overtime at the end of regulation (thanks to Peyton’s favorite liquored-up kicker) and said liquored-up kicker won the game in overtime. Manning completed 27 of 44 passes for 229 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions but one lost fumble. 2-1.
In January 2004, the Colts lost by 10 to the Patriots in the AFC title game; it was 32 degrees at the start of the game. Peyton completed 23 of 47 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. 2-2.
In January 2005, the 12-3 Colts traveled to Denver for a Week 17 game, with the temperature again at 32. Peyton started and played only one drive, because the Colts had their postseason position secured. Denver won, 33-14. 2-3.
Later that month, the Colts again visited the Patriots, with the Pats again winning by double digits. The temperature at kickoff was 25. Peyton completed 27 of 42 passes for 238 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. 2-4.
In November 2006, Peyton and the 8-0 Colts returned to New England, for a game with a 31-degree temperature at kickoff. The Colts won by a touchdown, and Manning completed 20 of 36 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. 3-4.
In January 2010, on a 12-degree day in Buffalo, Manning played in only the first three possessions of a meaningless Week 17 game against the Bills. The 14-1 Colts lost 30-7. Peyton completed 14 of 18 passes for 95 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. 3-5.
The last three cold-weather games have come in the past year. At Denver vs. the Ravens in the AFC divisional playoffs. 3-6. At New England last month. 3-7. Sunday against the Titans. 4-7.
So it’s 1-3 at New England, 0-2 in meaningless games where he played sparingly, and most importantly 0-3 in the playoffs.
Ultimately, that’s the real narrative. The Jim Irsay one-Super-Bowl-win-in-16-seasons narrative. The only way Irsay or anyone else will be able to stick that one where the one doesn’t shine will be for Peyton to get a time machine.
Or maybe to end his career like John Elway, with back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
With so much going on in the final minutes of the Ravens’ 29-26 victory over the Vikings, the return of tight end Dennis Pitta to the Baltimore lineup wasn’t a big story in the aftermath.
Pitta’s return from his August hip dislocation went about as well as the team could have hoped for, though. He had a drop early in the game, but Joe Flacco looked for him frequently and Pitta delivered with six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Pitta played a big role on the final drive, drawing a pass interference flag on linebacker Chad Greenway and catching an 18-yard pass to set up Marlon Brown’s winning touchdown.
Not bad for the first day back at work.
“I remember when I got injured, I didn’t know if I was even going to play football again,” Pitta said, via the team’s website. “So being able to stand here and talk about a victory and being a part of that is special for me. And just being a part of this team and being able to fight the way we did today is pretty remarkable.”
Pitta jumped right back into his role as a favored target on third down, gaining a first down that set up his touchdown in the fourth quarter. That score set off the scoring frenzy that closed the game and was part of a day filled with evidence of Pitta’s value to Baltimore’s offense as they vie for a playoff spot.
The Bengals took another step closer to a division title with Sunday’s victory over the Colts, but they may be shorthanded for some or all of their remaining regular season games.
Coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, that Newman was “a little sore” after injuring his knee in the win. Reedy thought that might have been an understatement since Newman was in a brace and “not moving it at all.”
A report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN suggests the same. Mortensen reports that Newman is expected to miss up to three weeks because of a sprained MCL, which would take the Bengals right through the end of the regular season.
While they haven’t officially booked their passage, it would take a monumental collapse and a lot of bad luck for the Bengals to miss the playoffs at this point. Winning the division will still take a little work, though, and losing Newman will hurt at a position that’s already missing Leon Hall. It would hurt more to be thin for a playoff game, though, so caution will likely be the route chosen in Cincinnati.
The Panthers still have legitimate playoff hopes, but they may have to pursue them with only a normal allotment of running backs.
Stewart didn’t return after taking a shot to the knee, though the Panthers had entered the point of the game at which running was a luxury they could no longer afford.
If he’s out, the Panthers would again have to go back to just DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert. They’re used to that, as Stewart had only played the last six games, after missing the first half of the season following offseason ankle surgeries.
The NFL wants defenseless receivers to be hit low and not high to protect said defenseless receivers from getting concussions. But low hits can result in knee injuries.
They also can result in concussions.
Per a league source, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a concussion along with his knee injury as a result of the hit he absorbed from Browns defensive back T.J. Ward. Gronkowski’s head banged against the turf at Gillette Stadium after Ward’s shot to the knee toppled Gronkowski to the ground.
The concussion, we’re told, is slight. But it’s still a concussion.
Which provides a different context for the question of whether a defenseless receiver would prefer a high hit and a concussion to a low hit and a knee injury. For some low hits, the defenseless receiver gets both.
Sure, Broncos kicker Matt Prater knew what the NFL record for the longest field goal was.
He just didn’t know he was going to be asked to break it.
Prater said he was caught off guard when asked to kick a 64-yard attempt just before halftime yesterday, which he nailed to establish a new distance record.
“I was clueless,” Prater said, via Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “I didn’t know he was going to call for the field goal. I didn’t know the kick would be from where it was. I think it helped me to get out there late. Because I had to rush out there, I didn’t have much time to think about it.”
Elam and Janikowski hit theirs in Denver also, but Prater said he thought the bitter cold negated any advantage the altitude gave him.
Of course, Prater wasn’t the only one unaware. Long snapper Aaron Brewer said he realized it was long, and just wanted to make sure he did his part to prevent a long return such as the Auburn win over Alabama the weekend before.
“I didn’t know it was for the longest,” Brewer said. “I just knew I was supposed to run down and cover it. So I ran down and turned around and everyone was going crazy. It was pretty cool.”
For a bunch of guys who barely know where they are on the field, they’re pretty good at their jobs.
With Mike Shanahan on the outs in D.C., the next question becomes who will be on the ins.
From the moment Baylor announced another extension with head coach Art Briles, speculation intensified that Baylor and Briles hoped to prevent speculation that he’ll reunite with Robert Griffin III. Talk like that could undermine if not destroy a recruiting class.
Now that Shanahan seems highly unlikely to be back next year, Briles already has been asked about whether a jump to the NFL could happen.
“I’ve had zero contact with anybody,” Briles said Sunday night, via WacoTrib.com. “I’m a Baylor Bear — that’s all I’m concerned about.”
That quote became a headline that Briles “plans no reunion” with Griffin. But what college coach is ever candid about his plan?
For college coaches, the plan becomes evident only when the plan becomes implemented. Rarely do college coaches flirt with leaving without leaving. When they do (and it’s not unprecedented), it becomes difficult to persuade teenagers and their parents that the man recruiting them to make a four-year commitment to a given also has made a four-year commitment to that school.
Whether Briles would truly want the job presumes that Washington owner Daniel Snyder would want Briles. While it makes sense to have a coach who had a strong and successful working relationship with Griffin in college, hiring Briles strengthens the narrative that Griffin has too much power and influence over Snyder.
Still, it’s critical that Snyder hire a coach who wants Griffin to be his quarterback. There’s a chance a new coach would say what he has to say to get the job, and then lay the foundation (subtly or otherwise) for getting his own quarterback. The challenge for Snyder will be to find a coach who means what he says when he says he wants Griffin.
Does anyone think Josh McDaniels told the Broncos he’d run quarterback Jay Cutler out of town as the first order of business in Denver? Does anyone think Shanahan told Snyder that Shanahan would provoke a showdown with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth as the first order of business in D.C.?With Kirk Cousins under contract for two more years, there’s a chance the next coach will prefer Cousins to Griffin.
That’s why it will be critical for Snyder to find a coach who truly wants Griffin. The guy who most likely fits that mold is Art Briles.
The Jaguars are back to work after an extended break following last Thursday’s win and the business at hand includes some roster shuffling.
Running back Justin Forsett and wide receiver Stephen Burton are heading to injured reserve while former Colts running back Delone Carter will be coming on board. Forsett broke a bone in his foot a couple of weeks ago, ending a season that saw him get the ball just 21 times in 12 games. Burton, a 2011 seventh-round pick in Minnesota, has been out with a concussion for about a month.
Carter was with the Ravens this summer after a trade with the Colts, but couldn’t win a spot on the roster. The 2011 fourth-rounder ran 133 for 499 yards and five touchdowns during two seasons with the Colts.
Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds is eligible to return from suspension, so he may be ticketed for the other currently open roster spot in Jacksonville.
After another huge game on Sunday, Peyton Manning his closing in on the fifth Most Valuable Player award of his career.
Manning is already the only player in NFL history to win the Associated Press MVP award four times, and on Sunday he had one of his best games of a great season, completing 39 of 59 passes for 397 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning is now at 45 touchdown passes on the season, meaning he’ll likely break Tom Brady’s record of 50. Breaking that record would generate a new round of attention for the great season Manning has had, and would likely tip most MVP voters in Manning’s favor.
Perhaps equally important for Manning’s MVP candidacy is that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the player who was beginning to generate some solid MVP buzz as an alternative to Manning, had a mediocre game in Seattle’s loss to San Francisco. There aren’t a lot of other alternatives to Manning.
It’s still possible that Manning could fold down the stretch and the Broncos could lose the division race to the Chiefs. If that happens, someone like Wilson or Eagles running back LeSean McCoy might still be able to win the award.
But right now, Manning looks like he’s going to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. Again.
The Falcons season hasn’t turned out as planned, but offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter still may be able to move into a head coaching job next season.
Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman reports that Koetter will interview for the vacant head coaching position at Boise State. Chris Petersen, Boise’s former coach, left the school to become the head coach at the University of Washington.
Koetter’s familiar with the school and the job, since he held it from 1998-2000 before leaving to become the head coach at Arizona State. Koetter had a 26-10 record during his stint, which featured the team’s first trip to a bowl game and came just before their vault to national prominence over the next decade. Per Cripe, Koetter has “hinted” in the past that he’d be interested in returning to the school.
His interview will reportedly be on Monday and take place via phone because of “travel issues.”
It’s Koetter’s second season as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He guided one of the league’s best offenses last year, but injuries to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Stephen Jackson have combined with a faltering offensive line to make Koetter look less clever this time around.
The weekend seems to have clouded the outlook up a little bit. Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union reports that Jones-Drew said Monday that he hopes to return to practice on Friday, which is a schedule for the week that lends itself to a questionable designation more than a definite one.
Jones-Drew would surely like to close out the year healthy and on the field in order to make the strongest possible case for himself heading into free agency. Ending the year with injury limitations is the surest way to remind potential suitors that 30 is right around the corner and that’s not going to do much for contract offers.
Having a healthy Jones-Drew would also improve the Jaguars’ chances of finishing the year riding the same wave that has made them winners in four of their last five contests. That won’t erase the way things started, but it would be a hopeful ending note for Gus Bradley’s first year as the man in charge in Jacksonville.
You didn’t need to see Cardinals rookie Tyrann Mathieu go down to know it was bad.
Tests have confirmed it’s perhaps worse than it looked.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Mathieu tore both the ACL and the LCL in yesterday’s ugly collision.
Tearing multiple ligaments complicates any recovery, so it might not be as simple as assuming he’ll be well when the Cardinals start back next summer.
Mathieu was blossoming into a playmaker for the Cardinals, justifying the third-round draft pick, as be could play safety and cover slot receivers.
The Redskins and Patriots had very different results on Sunday, but both teams are facing questions about their future on Monday.
Washington got blown out at their rapidly emptying home stadium by the Chiefs a few hours after a report about coach Mike Shanahan’s dissatisfaction with the relationship between quarterback Robert Griffin III and team owner Dan Snyder came to light. Shanahan didn’t deny the report or say much of anything else after the game, so Mike Florio will welcome Rich Tandler of CSN Washington to PFT Live to discuss what’s going on in D.C.
The questions about the Patriots future are more localized than the ones the Redskins face after this mess of a season. Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s season is done because of a torn ACL, leaving the Patriots to forge on without their most productive receiver in the postseason once again. Tom Curran of CSN New England will let us know how the Patriots will move on in the wake of Gronkowski’s injury.
You can watch it all live at noon ET by clicking right here.